New Delhi: Former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is on death row in Pakistan for allegedly spying for India, met his family members in Islamabad on Monday afternoon in a carefully choreographed event.
The meeting lasted nearly 40 minutes but Jadhav, and his wife and mother, were separated by a glass screen and only spoke through an intercom device. Pakistan said it could not allow physical contact due to “security implications”.
The meeting, Jadhav’s first with his family since his arrest in March last year, took place at the heavily guarded Foreign Affairs Ministry building, and came after months of representation from both nations after the International Court of Justice stayed his execution in May.
Pakistan portrayed it as a humanitarian gesture to mark the birthday of the country’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, but soon after the meeting ended, called him “the face of Indian terror” and released another video of his “confession” to several attacks in the country.
“Pakistan permits the meeting of wife and mother of Commander Jadhav with him, as a humanitarian gesture, on the birthday of the Father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal tweeted.
The tweet made it a point to identify Jadhav, a former Indian Navy officer, with his military title. Pakistan claims its security forces arrested Jadhav from its restive Balochistan province after he reportedly entered from Iran. It claims that he was in possession of an Indian passport that identified him as Hussein Mubarak Patel.
India, however, maintains that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Indian Navy. Faisal also tweeted that the meeting was arranged in light of "Islamic traditions and based on purely humanitarian grounds."
TV footage showed Jadhav’s mother Avanti and wife Chetankul entering the ministry buildings Agha Shahi Block, accompanied by Indias Deputy High Commissioner J P Singh and a Pakistani woman official. After they went in, the door shut behind them.
The mother and wife of Commander Jadhav sitting comfortably in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pakistan . We honour our commitments pic.twitter.com/hILiMyp7Zl— Dr Mohammad Faisal (@ForeignOfficePk) December 25, 2017
Pakistan Foreign Office later released pictures of Jadhav talking to his wife and mother from behind a glass screen. The meeting started at around 1.35 pm and lasted about 45 minutes, after which the entire party remerged, and were driven away in a white SUV.
The two women had arrived in Islamabad earlier today via Dubai on a commercial flight, and spent about 30 minutes at the Indian Embassy before being driven to the Foreign Ministry. They are expected to stay at the Indian Embassy for a few hours before retracing their path back to India later this evening.
All the information about the meeting emerged through Pakistani Foreign Ministry tweets and images. "The mother and wife of Commander Jadhav sitting comfortably in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan. We honour our commitments," Foreign Office Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal earlier tweeted along with a picture of the visitors.
From Pakistan’s side, Foreign Office Director for India, Dr Fareha Bugti, was present at the meeting. The wife and mother greeted media persons with a namaste after arriving at the ministry but did not respond to their questions.
They also did not talk to the reporters while leaving the building, although journalists kept shouting questions. Jadhav was at the ministry before his family arrived. It was not known where he had been kept before being transported to the Foreign Ministry.
Later, in a press conference, Pakistan claimed that both Jadhav and his happy were very happy with the meeting and "spoke openly". It also said that Jadhav was in excellent health, but made sure it pointed out that the meeting does not amount to consular access and would have no bearing on the case in ICJ. The Indian government has so far not responded.
TV footage showed a convoy of around seven vehicles escorting Jadhav’s family in the city. Police and paramilitary security forces, including sharpshooters, were deployed at the ministry to deal with any untoward security situation, they said.
Pakistan on December 20 had issued visa to Jadhav’s wife and mother to visit Islamabad to meet him.
Jadhav, 47, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April, following which India moved the ICJ in May. It is expected to hold another hearing in March or April.